Video Cases

Charlotte Larkin (Risk: High)

Charlotte LarkinCharlotte Larkin, a 48-year-old Caucasian female, has just joined a new Episcopal church. Her only daughter, 17-year-old Marie, graduated from high school in the spring and has just moved across the country for college.

With her daughter striking out on her own, Charlotte finds herself flashing back to her late teens. Her mother passed away when she was very young, so her father raised her single-handedly, with the help of their church, despite the challenge of his own undiagnosed depression. While they had a close relationship, she also felt depressed and unsafe at home and, after a depressive episode, she ran away at 15. She lived in shelters and occasionally on the streets until she managed to find a roommate and get into a community college. She only reconnected with her father at 17. When she was 18, he died from cancer quite unexpectedly. Losing him in her second semester of school proved too hard a blow for Charlotte; she dropped out of school and fell into depression again, eventually attempting suicide with stolen Xanax.

Her roommate found her and forced her to go into treatment. After that crisis, she drifted for a while before finding real help and attaining improved function. She met Mark (now 52), her husband, about three months after finding a job and an apartment. Mark and Charlotte married almost immediately and had Marie within the year.

She and Mark both work full time and have since Marie was a toddler. Mark is only home one weekend a month, since he works offshore. Charlotte grew up Episcopal but found that work, childcare, and several recurrent bouts of depression (each lasting six months to a year each) left no time for church participation when Marie was growing up.

During Marie’s senior year, Charlotte began thinking about her own teenage years, especially some troubling moments with her uncle, her hard times as a homeless teen, the loss of her father, and her own suicide attempt. Charlotte entered another bout of depression, this one worse than any of her previous ones, and, as “empty nest” set in, she began quietly and increasingly reading up on “effective” ways to die by suicide.

Charlotte recently became a new member at a nearby Episcopal church. Returning to the rituals of her youth has triggered old memories and unexpected guilt and fears that she deprived Marie of a religious upbringing. She regrets that Marie missed out on the rituals and community Charlotte held dear as a child, and feels that she somehow failed her daughter. She’s been thinking a lot about religion and faith with the new spare time she has on her hands, and her recurring thoughts of suicide.

She’s in the minister’s office today because of new member protocol; after she joined on a whim during a service, the minister has asked to chat with her in his/her office.

Guarded Memories

From the time that Charlotte was 12 until she was 15, her uncle (her father’s only brother) sexually abused her. He lived close by and was one of the primary members of her small family’s support system, so she was often left alone with him. For the first two year, his intimidation coerced her into keeping the abuse a secret, but then, one Christmas, he abused her in a church classroom while her father was in a service.

After such trauma in the only location she still felt safe, she summoned the courage to tell her father what was happening. She can still remember the way his face flashed with anger, then hardened into silence. Not only did he refuse to believe her, he got angry at her for her “teenage dramatics” and disrespecting his only brother, who had done so much for them. He made her swear to never bring it up again.

Her performance in school dropped below acceptable levels, and she had to endure parent-teacher conferences where her father claimed to have no idea why she was doing so poorly. At 15, she could no longer take the abuse and neglect, and she ran away.

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Nathan Dodd (Risk: High)

Nathan DoddNathan Dodd, 29-year-old African American male, grew up religious but hasn’t gone to church since the day he graduated high school and left home. Despite having known he was gay since he was a teenager, and having dated men seriously for five years, he only recently came out to his family.

Denisse (48), his divorced mother, cried when Nathan told her and asked him to please leave the house while she figured it out. She has only made tentative phone contact since then. Telling Hector (51) and Tonisha (40), his father and stepmother, who are intensely religious and tightly woven into their church community, was much more difficult and intense. Tonisha wasn’t surprised, but Hector was shaken to his core. His anger stemmed not only from his belief that homosexuality is a sin against God, but also his feelings of betrayal, that his son could ever “do something like that.”

Kalyn (25), Nathan’s only sibling, took the news well, and is currently the only family member speaking to him. Kalyn checks in when she can, though living in another time zone makes it hard for them to connect on the phone. Darius (29), a guy Nathan was dating for a few weeks, disappeared after a great date, which hits Nathan harder than it might usually. He hangs out with a group of friends who have all been out for years and aren’t anxious to relive the experience through Nathan’s story. To cope, he indulges in some “party drug” use, which he used to do often in high school and just after, but hasn’t done in years. While it felt good at first, lately he finds that the drugs cause an intense paranoia in him and make him hide out in his small apartment for entire weekends without communicating with other people.

Nathan has worked with a construction company for the last few years and, typically, enjoys his job. Lately, however, his work environment has felt unsafe. Somehow, a few of his coworkers have guessed at or found out about his sexual orientation and have started taunting him. He ignores it as well as he can, but finally he has to take a few “sick days” to get away from the hostility.

He’s lost interest in eating – most days, he eats a small bowl of cereal obligingly when he looks up at the clock and realizes it’s almost midnight and he hasn’t eaten dinner. A few times, he’s even thought to himself, “Maybe I should just end it or something.” He has enough drugs that he think would do the trick.

He doesn’t have insurance, so he can’t visit a therapist. He remembers his childhood preacher’s doors always being open for talking, but is terrified of encountering the same judgment from a preacher that he received from his father. On an aimless walk one day, he finds himself passing a conservative church that a friend once mentioned as a positive place to worship. On a whim, he decides to go in and try talking with the preacher, hoping that he’ll find a compassionate helper.

Guarded Memories

When Nathan was a freshman in high school, he started going to raves on the weekends and using party drugs to relieve the stress of class and hiding his sexual identity from his friends. At one party, while he was on extacy, he started flirting heavily with Andre, an older man. Andre convinced Nathan to come to his apartment, where Nathan remembers taking another drug, and then nothing afterward. He woke up in a back alley downtown the next morning, late for school and sexually assaulted. At the time, “date rape” was not even a commonly used term, and there was no one he could turn to for help. He managed to sneak back into his house without being noticed and told no one about the assault.

But his mental health suffered drastically afterward. He failed out of his advanced placement classes and dropped his extracurricular activities. He felt lethargic and angry, even lashing out with fists at his mother a few times. He was sure that his life would always feel this impossible, and he found himself intensely jealous whenever he heard of someone dying by suicide.

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Allie Werner (Risk: Moderate-High)

Allie WernerAllie Werner, 25-year-old Caucasian female, graduated from college two years ago with a degree in art history, her long-time passion, and despite great opposition from her parents, both high-profile lawyers. She’s the only child of successful parents, and grew up under intense scrutiny and pressure. Allie and her parents have been estranged since they cut off her funding for college during her Junior year. She’s blown off steam with drug use and some alcohol abuse since she was a teenager.

Allie felt confident that her student loans and credit card debt were a calculated risk that would pay off when she landed her dream job. After three months of searching, and several painful rejections, she applied to be on a temp agency’s roster so that she wouldn’t get evicted.

Since then, she’s worked a string of random part-time jobs that don’t engage her head or her heart; they just (barely) pay the bills. After finding scant opportunities to work in her chosen profession, she starts to feel resentment towards her professors, who all sounded so optimistic about her job prospects. Her last temp job ended a month ago and there are none available now. She’s been on dozens of job interviews, but can’t find anything.

She feels embarrassed that she drove herself so far into debt for college and now can’t find a job in the field she was trained for. Her dried-up income stream is bad news; her school loans are all past due and delinquent. Both of her credit cards has also gone into collections; she doesn’t answer the phone anymore because of the threatening creditor calls. She feels she can’t mention any of this to her parents because of the condemning and judgment she’s sure she’ll face. She doesn’t have enough money to pay rent this month, and is convinced she’ll end up homeless.

On the weekends, she hides from her roommate, Meredith (23), who seems annoyingly calm and peaceful and won’t stop asking her to come to yoga with her. Try as she might, Allie can’t muster the energy to open the blinds, take a shower, get dressed, and go outside. Her emotions feel painfully vivid in some moments, dull in others. Only with a lot of nagging from her roommate can she handle some of her apartment chores. Her friends got tired of inviting her to parties only to have her bail on them, so they don’t bother calling any more.

Everyone else her age seems to be doing fine with such ease. Marcella (26) and Heidi (25), her two best friends from college, both secured their dream jobs before they’d even graduated, and Alex (26), her friend from church, seems satisfied working an entry-level position while he networks his way into his field. Allie’s sure that something basic must be wrong with her, though she’s doesn’t think she’s depressed or anything. She just needs to solve this job thing and she’ll be fine.

She’s been sneaking leftover prescription pills from the back of her roommate’s medicine cabinet, and has recklessly combined prescriptions a couple of times, just to see what would happen. She’s had a hard time sleeping for months now, and has not slept at all for a week. Her insomnia has made her moods intense and abusive to her roommate.

Allie’s very hesitant to reach out because she feels like she’s wasting her minister’s time; s/he should be meeting with the people who have real problems, not her. However, she knows her minister would be mad at her if she doesn’t say something, so she asks Marcella to come to the church with her so she won’t chicken out. Allie’s nervous about admitting her dark thoughts and actions to her minister, someone who she’s known for some time.

Guarded Memories

Allie remembers witnessing some terrible fights about money and appearances between her parents when she was a child. Some ended in her mother throwing things at her father and leaving the house in a whirlwind, often drunk. Her parents never said a word to her about their fights; in the morning, they appeared at breakfast as if nothing had happened at all. Allie was so ashamed of their behavior that she could never tell any of her peers.

When she began dating, she found herself attracted to powerful guys who would dominate her life, both socially and sexually. She was drawn to the humiliating feeling she would get when they hurt her. She slept around recklessly and when she got to college, she continued this pattern, mixing her bad dates with alcohol abuse. Recent physical symptoms have made her suspicious that she has herpes, but she has no health insurance for treatment and is too embarrassed to go to a public health clinic.

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Carter Rankin (Risk: Low-Moderate)

Carter RankinCarter Rankin is a 19-year-old African American male who has just started his sophomore year at college. During freshman year, he really enjoyed living in the dorms and meeting new people, even though his class load was challenging. In second semester, missing the ritual of attending church at home, he carved out time to get moderately involved with the youth ministries at the church on campus. He also got a part-time work study job on campus.

When he went home for the summer, his parents, Martha (58) and Jarrod (62), broke the bad news: they had sold their house and planned to move two states away in September. Carter is heartbroken: he grew up in that house and his entire high school and church community is deeply rooted in his hometown. His parents tell him the move is motivated by Martha’s new job, but Carter notices that they’re downsizing to an apartment. His older brothers Stephen (28) and Jay (26) graduated college years ago and are living successfully on their own now. Since Carter’s the last to go to college, he secretly wonders if the costs are breaking down their financial life. Carter spends the summer helping his parents pack up their house and working to earn money for books this next semester.

Carter returns to school grateful to be finished with packing, but sad to leave his childhood home for the last time, exhausted from the summer, and under a lot of pressure. If his grades don’t stay up, his scholarship will be in danger and he might also lose his work study. On the bright side, he hits it off with his new roommate (Brady, age 19), and they even share a few classes, so they can hang out and study together.

As October rolls around and midterm exams begin, Carter starts feeling extra tired, like he’s walking around with heavy chains on. He dreads getting the cheery phone calls from his parents about the fantastic new friends they’re making, and Stephen and Jay are busy with their jobs and Carter can’t always get ahold of them. After he skips youth group for the fourth time, he realizes that he might want to talk to the minister about how he’s feeling.

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Jasper Collins (Risk: High)

Jasper CollinsJasper Collins is a 57-year-old Caucasian male. He has been married to Harriet for 30 years. The couple has two children, Jason (age 29) and Sarah (age 18). Jason lives out of state and Sarah, who recently joined the military, also lives out of state. Jasper and Harriet go to an Episcopal church regularly, and Harriet is involved in several church activities.

Jasper is a recovering alcoholic, and a Vietnam War veteran (drafted, rank of private) who was recently fired from his job from a water treatment plant. When Jasper returned from Vietnam, he suffered from the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and was unable to focus enough to get himself through college. He was never diagnosed and he was able to focus well enough to have a string of jobs, if not a career.

Considering himself too old to find another job, he retreated to his home, where he has spent his time watching TV and has been unable to stay completely sober. One of the topics in the media that has caught his attention was the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As Jasper watched the news reports of American soldiers in those countries, the memories of his own experiences in Vietnam crept back into his mind: the members of his platoon who died in his arms; the faces of the enemy whom he killed; the orders he didn’t always agree with; the “accidents” in which women and children civilians were mistakenly killed or wounded. In light of these memories, Jasper has increasing become more anxious and has been having strong panic attacks. With Sarah in the military, his thoughts of what could happen to her enhance the intensity of his anxiety. He has stopped going to church, has withdrawn from his bowling group, and has snapped at Harriet more than once. Harriet has been concerned and nervous, but Jasper has pushed her away and refuses to talk about it. She reached out to their priest for help, and today the priest has stopped by Jasper’s house to talk.

Guarded Memories:
When Jasper was in Vietnam, he spent several nights contemplating taking his life. The stress of war seemed too great to bear. He had been in country for 2 tours, he was exhausted, and got confused easily. He put the gun to his head a few times, to see how it felt there. Since he’s been back, he occasionally does the same with the .45 he keeps locked away. Because he loves his family, he doesn’t ever pull the trigger, or even load the gun. But with things going the way they are, he’s been considering loading the gun to see what happens.

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Kaden Akers (Risk: Low-Moderate)

Kaden AkersLife has been pretty good for Kaden Akers, 33-year-old African American male, over the last year. He has dealt with bipolar disorder since he was 16, which often manifested in binge eating and suicidal ideation. He kept these thoughts secret for years, humiliated by his thoughts in the midst of his faith’s strong taboo against suicide.

After a difficult bout of depression and a suicide attempt three years ago (he was hospitalized for days), he finally sought professional help. Since then, he has slowly found ways to manage his mental health and engage with the world around him. The minister at his church has been instrumental in supporting him as he learned how to live with depression and find ways to help himself, though he is still reticent to talk to other members about his issues.

Kaden was recently given a small raise at the national grocery store chain where he works, after having advocated for a promotion and being turned down several times due to the economy. He has occasional interpersonal conflicts with his coworkers, but he’s usually able to smooth them out with little lasting damage. Until very recently he was able to walk to work, which he enjoyed a great deal and found that it helped him clear his mind and lift his mood. After he was transferred to a new location because of his small promotion, his commute now puts him in a car in traffic for forty-five minutes twice a day. While he tries to deal with this change by stocking his car with his favorite CDs, the rush hour traffic sometimes triggers panic attacks and outbursts of road rage. He hasn’t told anyone about this.

After asking his friends to set him up on dates, he’s met Leena (35), a woman with whom he connects well, and they’ve just started dating.

Kaden does keep a heavy secret: if he were ever to return to that dark place, he would be too ashamed of having a relapse to ask for help again. After all the work and care that his minister gave him to help him deal with his mental health condition, he feels like it would be too humiliating to admit it if he ever felt suicidal again. It would be easier to just quietly wrap up the details of his life and end it, this time using a gun. He hasn’t told anyone about this plan; he keeps it secret and uses it almost as a calming mechanism on bad days.

Guarded Memories

When Kaden was 11, he and his single mother lived in a very small, predominantly Caucasian town. While there were a few kind classmates who befriended him, many of the students bullied him about being African American. Their methods ranged from verbal abuse to physical fights, from whispered threats to vandalism of his locker. When three of the bullying classmates followed him home and broke a window with a flaming baseball soaked in gasoline, his mother had no choice but to quit her job and move them in to her sister’s house 150 miles away.

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Reverend Molock and Carter

Risk Level: Low-Moderate

Reflection Videos

Carter Rankin is a 19-year-old African American male who has just started his sophomore year at college. During freshman year, he really enjoyed living in the dorms and meeting new people, even though his class load was challenging. In second semester, missing the ritual of attending church at home, he carved out time to get moderately involved with the youth ministries at the church on campus. He also got a part-time work study job on campus.

Carter RankinWhen he went home for the summer, his parents, Martha (58) and Jarrod (62), broke the bad news: they had sold their house and planned to move two states away in September. Carter is heartbroken: he grew up in that house and his entire high school and church community is deeply rooted in his hometown. His parents tell him the move is motivated by Martha’s new job, but Carter notices that they’re downsizing to an apartment. His older brothers Stephen (28) and Jay (26) graduated college years ago and are living successfully on their own now. Since Carter’s the last to go to college, he secretly wonders if the costs are breaking down their financial life. Carter spends the summer helping his parents pack up their house and working to earn money for books this next semester.

Carter returns to school grateful to be finished with packing, but sad to leave his childhood home for the last time, exhausted from the summer, and under a lot of pressure. If his grades don’t stay up, his scholarship will be in danger and he might also lose his work study. On the bright side, he hits it off with his new roommate (Brady, age 19), and they even share a few classes, so they can hang out and study together.

As October rolls around and midterm exams begin, Carter starts feeling extra tired, like he’s walking around with heavy chains on. He dreads getting the cheery phone calls from his parents about the fantastic new friends they’re making, and Stephen and Jay are busy with their jobs and Carter can’t always get ahold of them. After he skips youth group for the fourth time, he realizes that he might want to talk to the minister about how he’s feeling.

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Reverend Molock & Allie

Risk Level: Moderate-High

Reflection Videos

Allie Werner, 25-year-old Caucasian female, graduated from college two years ago with a degree in art history, her long-time passion, and despite great opposition from her parents, both high-profile lawyers. She’s the only child of successful parents, and grew up under intense scrutiny and pressure. Allie and her parents have been estranged since they cut off her funding for college during her Junior year. She’s blown off steam with drug use and some alcohol abuse since she was a teenager.

Allie WernerAllie felt confident that her student loans and credit card debt were a calculated risk that would pay off when she landed her dream job. After three months of searching, and several painful rejections, she applied to be on a temp agency’s roster so that she wouldn’t get evicted.

Since then, she’s worked a string of random part-time jobs that don’t engage her head or her heart; they just (barely) pay the bills. After finding scant opportunities to work in her chosen profession, she starts to feel resentment towards her professors, who all sounded so optimistic about her job prospects. Her last temp job ended a month ago and there are none available now. She’s been on dozens of job interviews, but can’t find anything.

She feels embarrassed that she drove herself so far into debt for college and now can’t find a job in the field she was trained for. Her dried-up income stream is bad news; her school loans are all past due and delinquent. Both of her credit cards has also gone into collections; she doesn’t answer the phone anymore because of the threatening creditor calls. She feels she can’t mention any of this to her parents because of the condemning and judgment she’s sure she’ll face. She doesn’t have enough money to pay rent this month, and is convinced she’ll end up homeless.

On the weekends, she hides from her roommate, Meredith (23), who seems annoyingly calm and peaceful and won’t stop asking her to come to yoga with her. Try as she might, Allie can’t muster the energy to open the blinds, take a shower, get dressed, and go outside. Her emotions feel painfully vivid in some moments, dull in others. Only with a lot of nagging from her roommate can she handle some of her apartment chores. Her friends got tired of inviting her to parties only to have her bail on them, so they don’t bother calling any more.

Everyone else her age seems to be doing fine with such ease. Marcella (26) and Heidi (25), her two best friends from college, both secured their dream jobs before they’d even graduated, and Alex (26), her friend from church, seems satisfied working an entry-level position while he networks his way into his field. Allie’s sure that something basic must be wrong with her, though she’s doesn’t think she’s depressed or anything. She just needs to solve this job thing and she’ll be fine.

She’s been sneaking leftover prescription pills from the back of her roommate’s medicine cabinet, and has recklessly combined prescriptions a couple of times, just to see what would happen. She’s had a hard time sleeping for months now, and has not slept at all for a week. Her insomnia has made her moods intense and abusive to her roommate.

Allie’s very hesitant to reach out because she feels like she’s wasting her minister’s time; s/he should be meeting with the people who have real problems, not her. However, she knows her minister would be mad at her if she doesn’t say something, so she asks Marcella to come to the church with her so she won’t chicken out. Allie’s nervous about admitting her dark thoughts and actions to her minister, someone who she’s known for some time.

Guarded Memories

Allie remembers witnessing some terrible fights about money and appearances between her parents when she was a child. Some ended in her mother throwing things at her father and leaving the house in a whirlwind, often drunk. Her parents never said a word to her about their fights; in the morning, they appeared at breakfast as if nothing had happened at all. Allie was so ashamed of their behavior that she could never tell any of her peers.

When she began dating, she found herself attracted to powerful guys who would dominate her life, both socially and sexually. She was drawn to the humiliating feeling she would get when they hurt her. She slept around recklessly and when she got to college, she continued this pattern, mixing her bad dates with alcohol abuse. Recent physical symptoms have made her suspicious that she has herpes, but she has no health insurance for treatment and is too embarrassed to go to a public health clinic.

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Father Certain & Jasper

Risk Level: High

Reflection Videos

Jasper Collins is a 57-year-old Caucasian male. He has been married to Harriet for 30 years. The couple has two children, Jason (age 29) and Sarah (age 18). Jason lives out of state and Sarah, who recently joined the military, also lives out of state. Jasper and Harriet go to an Episcopal church regularly, and Harriet is involved in several church activities.

Jasper CollinsJasper is a recovering alcoholic, and a Vietnam War veteran (drafted, rank of private) who was recently fired from his job from a water treatment plant. When Jasper returned from Vietnam, he suffered from the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and was unable to focus enough to get himself through college. He was never diagnosed and he was able to focus well enough to have a string of jobs, if not a career.

Considering himself too old to find another job, he retreated to his home, where he has spent his time watching TV and has been unable to stay completely sober. One of the topics in the media that has caught his attention was the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As Jasper watched the news reports of American soldiers in those countries, the memories of his own experiences in Vietnam crept back into his mind: the members of his platoon who died in his arms; the faces of the enemy whom he killed; the orders he didn’t always agree with; the “accidents” in which women and children civilians were mistakenly killed or wounded. In light of these memories, Jasper has increasing become more anxious and has been having strong panic attacks. With Sarah in the military, his thoughts of what could happen to her enhance the intensity of his anxiety. He has stopped going to church, has withdrawn from his bowling group, and has snapped at Harriet more than once. Harriet has been concerned and nervous, but Jasper has pushed her away and refuses to talk about it. She reached out to their priest for help, and today the priest has stopped by Jasper’s house to talk.

Guarded Memories

When Jasper was in Vietnam, he spent several nights contemplating taking his life. The stress of war seemed too great to bear. He had been in country for 2 tours, he was exhausted, and got confused easily. He put the gun to his head a few times, to see how it felt there. Since he’s been back, he occasionally does the same with the .45 he keeps locked away. Because he loves his family, he doesn’t ever pull the trigger, or even load the gun. But with things going the way they are, he’s been considering loading the gun to see what happens.

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Father Certain & Charlotte

Risk Level: High

Reflection Videos

Charlotte Larkin, a 48-year-old Caucasian female, has just joined a new Episcopal church. Her only daughter, 17-year-old Marie, graduated from high school in the spring and has just moved across the country for college.

Charlotte LarkinWith her daughter striking out on her own, Charlotte finds herself flashing back to her late teens. Her mother passed away when she was very young, so her father raised her single-handedly, with the help of their church, despite the challenge of his own undiagnosed depression. While they had a close relationship, she also felt depressed and unsafe at home and, after a depressive episode, she ran away at 15. She lived in shelters and occasionally on the streets until she managed to find a roommate and get into a community college. She only reconnected with her father at 17. When she was 18, he died from cancer quite unexpectedly. Losing him in her second semester of school proved too hard a blow for Charlotte; she dropped out of school and fell into depression again, eventually attempting suicide with stolen Xanax.

Her roommate found her and forced her to go into treatment. After that crisis, she drifted for a while before finding real help and attaining improved function. She met Mark (now 52), her husband, about three months after finding a job and an apartment. Mark and Charlotte married almost immediately and had Marie within the year.

She and Mark both work full time and have since Marie was a toddler. Mark is only home one weekend a month, since he works offshore. Charlotte grew up Episcopal but found that work, childcare, and several recurrent bouts of depression (each lasting six months to a year each) left no time for church participation when Marie was growing up.

During Marie’s senior year, Charlotte began thinking about her own teenage years, especially some troubling moments with her uncle, her hard times as a homeless teen, the loss of her father, and her own suicide attempt. Charlotte entered another bout of depression, this one worse than any of her previous ones, and, as “empty nest” set in, she began quietly and increasingly reading up on “effective” ways to die by suicide.

Charlotte recently became a new member at a nearby Episcopal church. Returning to the rituals of her youth has triggered old memories and unexpected guilt and fears that she deprived Marie of a religious upbringing. She regrets that Marie missed out on the rituals and community Charlotte held dear as a child, and feels that she somehow failed her daughter. She’s been thinking a lot about religion and faith with the new spare time she has on her hands, and her recurring thoughts of suicide.

She’s in the minister’s office today because of new member protocol; after she joined on a whim during a service, the minister has asked to chat with her in his/her office.

Guarded Memories

From the time that Charlotte was 12 until she was 15, her uncle (her father’s only brother) sexually abused her. He lived close by and was one of the primary members of her small family’s support system, so she was often left alone with him. For the first two year, his intimidation coerced her into keeping the abuse a secret, but then, one Christmas, he abused her in a church classroom while her father was in a service.

After such trauma in the only location she still felt safe, she summoned the courage to tell her father what was happening. She can still remember the way his face flashed with anger, then hardened into silence. Not only did he refuse to believe her, he got angry at her for her “teenage dramatics” and disrespecting his only brother, who had done so much for them. He made her swear to never bring it up again.

Her performance in school dropped below acceptable levels, and she had to endure parent-teacher conferences where her father claimed to have no idea why she was doing so poorly. At 15, she could no longer take the abuse and neglect, and she ran away.

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Bishop Young & Nathan

Risk Level: High

Reflection Videos

Nathan Dodd, 29-year-old African American male, grew up religious but hasn’t gone to church since the day he graduated high school and left home. Despite having known he was gay since he was a teenager, and having dated men seriously for five years, he only recently came out to his family.

Nathan DoddDenisse (48), his divorced mother, cried when Nathan told her and asked him to please leave the house while she figured it out. She has only made tentative phone contact since then. Telling Hector (51) and Tonisha (40), his father and stepmother, who are intensely religious and tightly woven into their church community, was much more difficult and intense. Tonisha wasn’t surprised, but Hector was shaken to his core. His anger stemmed not only from his belief that homosexuality is a sin against God, but also his feelings of betrayal, that his son could ever “do something like that.”

Kalyn (25), Nathan’s only sibling, took the news well, and is currently the only family member speaking to him. Kalyn checks in when she can, though living in another time zone makes it hard for them to connect on the phone. Darius (29), a guy Nathan was dating for a few weeks, disappeared after a great date, which hits Nathan harder than it might usually. He hangs out with a group of friends who have all been out for years and aren’t anxious to relive the experience through Nathan’s story. To cope, he indulges in some “party drug” use, which he used to do often in high school and just after, but hasn’t done in years. While it felt good at first, lately he finds that the drugs cause an intense paranoia in him and make him hide out in his small apartment for entire weekends without communicating with other people.

Nathan has worked with a construction company for the last few years and, typically, enjoys his job. Lately, however, his work environment has felt unsafe. Somehow, a few of his coworkers have guessed at or found out about his sexual orientation and have started taunting him. He ignores it as well as he can, but finally he has to take a few “sick days” to get away from the hostility.

He’s lost interest in eating – most days, he eats a small bowl of cereal obligingly when he looks up at the clock and realizes it’s almost midnight and he hasn’t eaten dinner. A few times, he’s even thought to himself, “Maybe I should just end it or something.” He has enough drugs that he think would do the trick.

He doesn’t have insurance, so he can’t visit a therapist. He remembers his childhood preacher’s doors always being open for talking, but is terrified of encountering the same judgment from a preacher that he received from his father. On an aimless walk one day, he finds himself passing a conservative church that a friend once mentioned as a positive place to worship. On a whim, he decides to go in and try talking with the preacher, hoping that he’ll find a compassionate helper.

Guarded Memories

When Nathan was a freshman in high school, he started going to raves on the weekends and using party drugs to relieve the stress of class and hiding his sexual identity from his friends. At one party, while he was on extacy, he started flirting heavily with Andre, an older man. Andre convinced Nathan to come to his apartment, where Nathan remembers taking another drug, and then nothing afterward. He woke up in a back alley downtown the next morning, late for school and sexually assaulted. At the time, “date rape” was not even a commonly used term, and there was no one he could turn to for help. He managed to sneak back into his house without being noticed and told no one about the assault.

But his mental health suffered drastically afterward. He failed out of his advanced placement classes and dropped his extracurricular activities. He felt lethargic and angry, even lashing out with fists at his mother a few times. He was sure that his life would always feel this impossible, and he found himself intensely jealous whenever he heard of someone dying by suicide.

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Bishop Young & Kaden

Risk Level: Low-Moderate

Reflection Videos

Life has been pretty good for Kaden Akers, 33-year-old African American male, over the last year. He has dealt with bipolar disorder since he was 16, which often manifested in binge eating and suicidal ideation. He kept these thoughts secret for years, humiliated by his thoughts in the midst of his faith’s strong taboo against suicide.

Kaden AkersAfter a difficult bout of depression and a suicide attempt three years ago (he was hospitalized for days), he finally sought professional help. Since then, he has slowly found ways to manage his mental health and engage with the world around him. The minister at his church has been instrumental in supporting him as he learned how to live with depression and find ways to help himself, though he is still reticent to talk to other members about his issues.

Kaden was recently given a small raise at the national grocery store chain where he works, after having advocated for a promotion and being turned down several times due to the economy. He has occasional interpersonal conflicts with his coworkers, but he’s usually able to smooth them out with little lasting damage. Until very recently he was able to walk to work, which he enjoyed a great deal and found that it helped him clear his mind and lift his mood. After he was transferred to a new location because of his small promotion, his commute now puts him in a car in traffic for forty-five minutes twice a day. While he tries to deal with this change by stocking his car with his favorite CDs, the rush hour traffic sometimes triggers panic attacks and outbursts of road rage. He hasn’t told anyone about this.

After asking his friends to set him up on dates, he’s met Leena (35), a woman with whom he connects well, and they’ve just started dating.

Kaden does keep a heavy secret: if he were ever to return to that dark place, he would be too ashamed of having a relapse to ask for help again. After all the work and care that his minister gave him to help him deal with his mental health condition, he feels like it would be too humiliating to admit it if he ever felt suicidal again. It would be easier to just quietly wrap up the details of his life and end it, this time using a gun. He hasn’t told anyone about this plan; he keeps it secret and uses it almost as a calming mechanism on bad days.

Guarded Memories

When Kaden was 11, he and his single mother lived in a very small, predominantly Caucasian town. While there were a few kind classmates who befriended him, many of the students bullied him about being African American. Their methods ranged from verbal abuse to physical fights, from whispered threats to vandalism of his locker. When three of the bullying classmates followed him home and broke a window with a flaming baseball soaked in gasoline, his mother had no choice but to quit her job and move them in to her sister’s house 150 miles away.

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